Difference Between CIO and IT Director

Learn more about the careers of a CIO and an IT director, including basic salary and growth data, primary responsibilities, and links to related careers.

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Comparing Chief Information Officers to IT Directors

Both chief information officers (CIO) and information technology (IT) directors help oversee the day-to-day technology needs of a company or organization. Though CIO and IT directors are both responsible for the successful and secure operation of a company's computer resources, each career has a unique set of duties within their shared department. The following article highlights some of the most important similarities and differences.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Chief Information Officer (CIO) Bachelor's Degree $181,210 (for all chief executives) 1% (for all chief executives)
IT Director Bachelor's Degree $135,800 (for all computer and information systems managers) 15% (for all computer and information systems managers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Chief Information Officers vs. IT Directors

The management, function, and security of a company's computing systems depends on the shared work of the CIO and IT directors. Both careers require advanced understanding of network and data solutions, as well as the ability to set goals and effectively manage budgets, yet each position requires a distinct set of skills and experience. The CIO is the head executive in charge of the entire IT department, while an IT director usually supervises a small group of employees within the department. The CIO is responsible for creating and maintaining an organization's comprehensive IT strategy, focusing mainly on long-term goals and objectives. IT directors typically handle more immediate issues like supervising system implementation and hiring employees.


A CIO is the head of a company's IT department. Most CIOs have many years of experience working in a related field, such as information technology, data systems, network security, or computer operations. They are responsible for analyzing their organization's technology needs and developing strategies to address those needs. As the department head, the CIO is the direct supervisor of all IT managers and ensures that each manager works with other department employees to execute these policies successfully. In larger organizations, the CIO may be required to prepare and present annual reports to other company executives or board members; travel and occasional weekend work may also be necessary.

Job responsibilities of a CIO include:

  • Recommending upgrades to a company's computer systems
  • Learning about emerging technologies and how they may benefit the organization
  • Creating and enforcing department policies and procedures
  • Writing department budgets and controlling funds
  • Developing protocol for data security and system backup

IT Director

IT directors work under the CIO, often managing small groups of employees within the IT department. They are primarily in charge of supervising the day-to-day operation of a company's computer systems. They must work with their subordinates to ensure that networks are functional, data is secure, and technology is readily available to all employees. IT directors are often required to develop relationships with outside vendors and make recommendations to the CIO and other top executives, so strong communication skills are beneficial.

Job responsibilities of an IT director:

  • Working with other IT professionals to identify system improvements
  • Exploring new products and making recommendations to the CIO
  • Hiring and training new department employees
  • Supervising the installation and maintenance of computer hardware and software
  • Negotiating with vendors and external service providers

Related Careers

If you are drawn to a career as a CIO, you may also want to consider becoming a chief information security officer, another IT executive position with a more narrow focus on the security of a company's network systems. If a career as an IT director interests you, you might want to learn more about becoming a computer network architect, a job that also requires extensive technical knowledge and problem solving skills.

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